UFT Solidarity Calls for a Deflation of DOE Bureaucratic Bloat

UFT Solidarity Calls for a Deflation of DOE Bureaucratic Bloat

NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza sent staffers an email on July 1, 2020 that summarized the following budget cuts (the bolded text is our emphasis):

While many important questions remain, I want to share what we know about the budget.  

Overall, the Adopted Budget includes $400 million in new cuts, and $125 million in restorations of previous cuts, across FY 2020 and FY 2021.  

New cuts to FY 2021 include:  

  • $50 million in summer busing savings as a result of Summer in the City programming going remote this summer.  
  • $30 million in savings to central and field offices resulting from the hiring freeze and OTPS reductions. As stated to divisional COOs, this means that virtually all vacant positions will not be backfilled.  
  • $10 million in cuts to the Schools Out NYC (SONYC) afterschool program.
  • $21 million in cuts to per session budgets, reducing the amount of enrichment, services, and support for students outside of the school day, as well as teacher professional development. 
  • Reductions to centrally-administered school support initiatives, including Comprehensive School Support, EduStat, Teaching Fellows, Teacher’s Choice, Teacher and Principal Leadership programs, and Community Schools.   
  • Further reductions to central OTPS budgets that support travel, food, and other contract spending.   

We will continue to keep you posted as developments arise, but it’s also important to recognize that there was some positive news. Restorations of previous cuts include:  

  • A previously proposed $100 million Fair Student Funding reduction has now been restored. A school-based hiring freeze remains in effect.  
  • The Single Shepherd program, as well as certain social worker positions, have been restored after previously proposed cuts. This will maintain critical academic and mental health counseling support to historically underserved schools.  

Even with these restorations, going back to last July, the net impact of budget reductions over Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 has been over a billion dollars.  

Without additional assistance, the entire city—not just the DOE—will be in an even more compromised position. As you heard from Mayor de Blasio a few days ago, that situation could require furloughs or layoffs across city government. We do not yet know how those would be implemented across city agencies. We do know that this uncertainty is very worrisome, and I am hoping with every fiber of my being that such actions will not be necessary. That is why we are vigorously advocating for crucial support from our partners at other levels of government.  

We would first like to applaud the decision to restore the Single Shepard counselors and social workers to Title 1 schools. Since NYC was the epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic and one of the major epicenters for criminal justice reform, our children will be facing severe trauma, stress, and loss. The additional counselors and social workers will be necessary to help our children cope and process the stress of the previous six to eight months. We are also happy that Fair Student Funding is flat from last year. While there are always loopholes to hiring new teachers in the midst of a hiring freeze, we are hoping that ATRs will be able to– if they accept of course– be hired for positions in their license area in a school with a vacancy. 

Yet there are no reductions to the Office of General Counsel or the collapse of the Executive Superintendents. Principals will, as far as we can tell, have full power to harass and terrorize their staffers. They may be even more empowered to use attrition to lower their budgets for hiring. According to the NYC DOEnuts blog, “attrition” means lowering the number of employees by firing them or convincing them to resign. Anyone who has been in the DOE for a few years knows the sinister ways the DOE targets teachers– through a 3020a, forced resignation, discontinuance, investigations, and old fashioned harassment. 

As DOEnuts put it bluntly: “Expect your principal to speak poorly to you. Expect to be gaslighted. Expect an enormous amount of letters to your file. Every single school leader will be put in a position where there will be an economic incentive in getting teachers -many of whom are high in salary- to leave their budget, either by hook or by crook -and then they will be trained on how to get you out.  Is your salary over 80,000? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. Do you have to drop your kids off before work? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. Are you outspoken? Expect to be micromanaged and driven insane by an admin. In the environment that settles, maybe in as little as 18 months, expect to be a target by your administrators. This will be a fight -to the death- for that $80,000 a year salary of yours. Don’t focus on being liked. Focus on surviving with your salary and position intact. And don’t expect the UFT to be there for you all the time here. ”

How does your principal get away with this? If your administrator is targeting or abusing you, chances are they have DOE Legal on speed dial. Even UFT Presidents stated “The DOE is not run by [the Chancellor]. It is run by over 300 lawyers and accountability experts.” Before the DOE website was “modernized” to make it more “user friendly,” you would be able to see all the different divisions within the Office of General Counsel, aka “Legal.” The DOE attorneys are not the friend of UFT members and honestly they aren’t the friends of administrators, but they do give administrators a level of power and leverage. 

Every single UFT member who has sent requests for help to the UFT Solidarity team since 2014 has been targeted at the hands of a DOE attorney. Attorneys like in the Administrative Trials Unit who take pleasure in harassing and targeting UFT delegates who stand up for a colleague in a 3020a. Senior Field Counsels who provide principals with a template on how to write disciplinary letters (it’s no surprise that all disciplinary letters look ridiculously similar to each other regardless of the school). Joseph Baranello and the FOIL Unit that has a “D” for their subpar transparency.  

Legal does not help the education of 1.1 billion NYC students.

Legal does not help thousands of UFT members do their jobs.

Instead of cutting teacher’s choice, after-school programs, sports, enrichment, and other programs that help children like, if not tolerate, school why doesn’t the DOE gut the Office of General Counsel? Why not cut the lawyers in the Teacher Performance Unit and Administrative Trials Unit whose sole purpose are to terrorize teachers in the kangaroo court that is the 3020a process? Why not fire all the Senior Field Counselors? Why not cut all the bloat in the Office for Special Investigations and Office of Equal Opportunity which never take the teacher’s side if they are accused of misconduct but will instead do shoddy work that protects the Department and an administrator? 

Imagine a world where we had to budget to provide students and staffers with a safe, socially-distant start to the school year in buildings. Imagine a world where UFT members got increased “Teacher’s Choice” money to purchase materials that their students need to fill learning gaps and develop socio-emotional skills.

It doesn’t have to be a pipe dream. It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense. 

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